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Nominating and Establishing Protected Areas


The Protected Areas Act in the Northwest Territories provides a process for new protected areas to be identified, finalized, and implemented. Here’s how it works.


Step 1: Identification

  • An area is identified by an Indigenous government, Indigenous organization, the territorial government, another organization, or individual(s) for protection.

  • Any area identified must meet the purpose of the Protected Areas Act.

    • A summary of the Act’s goal: Provide a tool to create a network of permanent protected areas that support and promote the protection, conservation and maintenance of biodiversity, ecological integrity and cultural continuity of the Northwest Territories.

Step 2: Submitting a request for nomination

(for individuals and organizations – not for Indigenous governments, Indigenous organizations, or territorial government)

  • The individual or organization should seek support for the protected area. This includes support from Indigenous governments, Indigenous organizations, and private landowners in the proposed area.

  • Individuals or organizations may submit a request for nominations to:

    • Territorial government

    • Indigenous government

    • Indigenous organization

  • This request should include, to the best of your knowledge:
    • A description of what is important about the area and how protecting the area would help to meet the goals of the Act

    • A map of the area

    • The private landholders’ consent to the nomination must be included, if applicable

Step 3: Request for nomination evaluated

  • The territorial government, Indigenous government, or Indigenous organization will evaluate whether they wish to support a nomination for the proposed area to become a territorial protected area.

  • For a nominated area to become a candidate protected area:

    • The area must be made up of public land or, if it contains any privately-held land, the private landholders must agree to the nomination

    • The Minister must agree that the nominated area meets the goals of this Act as well as any other rules set out in regulations

    • The GNWT must have adequately consulted anyone whose Aboriginal or treaty rights might be affected by the creation of the candidate protected area

    • The area must be temporarily protected from any kind of industrial development until a decision is made on whether or not the area will become permanently protected

Step 4: Nomination submitted to and considered by Minister

  • If the request for nomination is supported, the nomination will be finalized and submitted by the Indigenous government, Indigenous organization, or territorial government to the Minister responsible for protected areas.

  • The nomination will be considered by the Minister.

  • The Minister may make a decision to reject the nomination. If they do, the reason must be provided in writing.

  • They may also make a decision to recommend the nominated area to the Cabinet as a candidate protected area. 

Step 5: Cabinet considers recommendation

  • Cabinet can choose to accept or reject the Minister’s recommendation the area be established as a candidate protected area.

  • If it is rejected, the area will not be established.

  • If it is accepted, the area becomes a candidate protected area.

Step 6: Candidate protected area and establishment process 

  • Candidate protected areas are protected on an interim basis. This means preventing certain activities, which could affect the integrity of the protected area, while work towards establishment continue.

  • The establishment process is done by the territorial government and Indigenous government(s) or Indigenous organization(s). Through this process, the following decisions will be made:

    • The goals of permanently protecting the area

    • The responsibilities of each of the groups involved in setting up the protected area

    • How the protected area will be managed and by who

    • How the involved groups will resolve disagreements

    • What activities will or will not be allowed in the protected area

    • How to manage visitors to the protected area

    • How the set-up and management of the protected area will be funded

    • How to make sure Aboriginal and treaty rights are not negatively affected

    • How people might benefit from protecting the area (e.g. jobs, training, etc.)

    • How to deal with things like buildings or equipment that are needed in the area

    • How reviews or reports will be done over time to see if the protected area is meeting its goals

    • Anything else the Minister and involved groups decide is important for setting up the protected area

  • In almost all cases, these decisions on these matters are written down in what is called an establishment agreement.

Step 7: Officially establishing a protected area 

  • When the establishment process is complete, regulations will be developed by the territorial government to officially establish the protected area.

  • The regulations for the protected area will, at a minimum, describe its borders as well as what activities will not be allowed in the area. The regulations may also include, for example:

    • What activities require a permit within the area

    • How entry to and use of the area will be controlled

    • How public facilities will be managed

    • The use of drugs or alcohol

    • The best way to ensure all users can peacefully enjoy the area

    • Fire control

    • Activities that may contaminate the environment

    • The possession or use of guns

    • The possession of animals

    • The use of any kind of vehicle

    • Anything else Cabinet decides is important for management of the protected area

  • If there is a difference or a conflict between any regulations made for a specific protected area and other general regulations made under this Act, the protected area-specific regulations will be followed.

  • Once the regulations are approved by Cabinet, the Minister will add it to the protected areas registry, along with information on the area’s borders, how it meets the goals of the Act, the rules for the area, and why the area is important to protect. This information will be publicly available.

Step 8: Management planning

  • A management plan will be developed for each protected area within five years of establishment.

  • The management plan will describe what the protected area is intended to protect, what the current state of the area is and what actions will need to be taken to meet the long-term or future vision for the area.

  • The plan will also describe how baseline data will be collected over time. This information will be used to determine if the management actions are protecting the area in the way that was intended. If not, the management plan will be adjusted.

  • The groups involved in setting up a protected area have the option of developing temporary guidelines that can be used to manage the area until a full management plan is in place.

For more information

If you have questions about identifying, nominating, or establishing protected areas under the Protected Areas Act in the NWT:

To learn more about the Protected Areas Act: link to legislation.

To access documents and correspondence related to territorial protected areas: